I'm at my desk right now thinking about where I was on this day 12 years ago. I was in denial, that much I know for sure, but otherwise the details are fuzzy. July 1st, 1997 was the last Canada Day I've celebrated while my mom was alive. She died of cancer the next morning. So, when I see fireworks in celebration of our wonderful country's birth, I remember how angry I was at 15 on Canada Day.
No longer able to speak, with a glaze over her eyes and spastic movements that I'll never forget, I walked into my mom's hospital room on July 1st and saw her alive for the last time. Creeping into the crowded room - my mom was the youngest of six siblings -I reached her hospital bed in the palliative care unit and she reached out her skinny arms to me. She wasn't able to look at me because she no longer had control over her eyes or voice, but she knew I was there and I will never forget how small her hands looked as they clutched my arm.
Moving closer to my gorgeous mother, I told her not to go anywhere without me. "I know it's getting really hard now Mom, but don't leave without me. When it's time, I want to be here." Without saying anything, she pulled me closer and one of my aunts said, "See Crys? She knows you're here." Thinking of that night still tears me apart. She was no longer my strong, funny, beautiful mom. She was a shell of the vibrant 37 year old mother of three she had been less than a year earlier. Her thick hair was gone. Her blue eyes gazed into the middle of the room without focusing on anything. Her once shapely body had melted away and she looked like a little girl in her hospital bed. It broke my heart and I don't think that pain will ever go away.
I spent that night on the couch in the waiting room. When I woke up the next morning, I went back into my mom's room and told her that if she was ready, I had to know because I had to be there. My dad drove me home at 6am. Took me to McDonald's on the way and I ordered my first coffee. It's funny the things you remember. I still love McDonald's coffee actually. After dropping me off at home, my dad went back to the hospital. Two hours later, I woke up to see my Aunt Sharon, Aunt Linda and Dad standing at the door of my bedroom. I knew.
FUCK! Why didn't anyone come get me? I was so pissed. My Aunt Sharon walked over to me and bent down to wrap her arms around me. "She's gone baby." I didn't cry. I said okay and got out of bed. I picked up the phone when my family had left the room and called my best friend. "Hi, is Meaghan there?" I whispered to her older brother, Ryan when he answered the phone at 9am. I had woken him up. He knew it was me and he knew why I was calling.
Meaghan spent the next few days by my side. She rode in the limo to the church for my mom's funeral Saturday morning with my family. She cried before I did. It took me over two days to release a single tear. I couldn't believe it had happened. Sometimes I still don't believe it has happened. How can I be living without my mother? It will never make sense to me. I will never understand why she died so young. Why after a terrible divorce from my father, she couldn't have been given an easier path. Instead, she got small cell lung cancer which had spread to her liver and brain and had to leave me and my two little sisters to grow up without her.
The radiation was pointless. The chemo was torture and from October 1996 to July 1997I desperately hoped her fate wasn't destined to be what I hated to admit it was. My wonderful, beautiful, smart, hard-working and accomplished mother was not supposed to die of cancer. Cancer was for other people. Older people. Bad people. Not her.
Tomorrow will be the 12 year anniversary of my mom's passing. When she died I thought, "one day she'll have been gone for ten years, but that can never happen because I can't live without her for that long. That day can never come." Ten years have come and gone and now it's been 12 years. Twelve entire years without my mother. Twelve years of growing, changes, new music, new adventures, broken hearts, lonely Christmases, grades completed and 12 years of wishing it had all gone differently. I'd give anything to have my mom back. I know it's a cliche, but it's the truth.
I don't think I'll ever stop wondering how my life would be if she were still here. Lately, I've wondered what she would say about the boy, what she would think about my career, what she would have done when our basement flooded last night, how she would have handled my little sister's struggles and how I would be different if she were still alive. I won't have the answers until we meet again someday and I'm okay with that now. It took me a long time to realize that the loneliness I feel where my mother is missing can find me in the biggest crowds. This loneliness doesn't paralyze me because I'm alone, but because she's the one person I really wish was still here. That will never change for me, but I am strong enough to wait for that day because it will come and when it does, it will be like not a second has passed. We'll catch up right where we left off because she'll will have been watching my life unfold down here while she enjoys a better life amongst the angels and clouds.
You never stop missing your mom. The violet cancer awareness ribbon tattoo on my right hip is a reminder of her fight. Patricia Evelyn Lewis Fitzpatrick March 19, 1960- July 2, 1997. Forever and ever Mama. <3